Monday, April 28, 2014

Scientology Redeux: Sermons, Books, and E-meters. Oh my!

Yesterday, I went to the Church of Scientology for their regular Sunday service. As stated in my earlier blog, I went back to actually see the Church in action, since my first time was basically just a Q&A session. I wasn't sure what the Sunday service would be like, and went into it almost blind. What did I experience?


The church is the same one I described in my previous Scientology blog, however, the chapel was new. The chapel was a room off to the side with a coffee pot, some chairs lined up into three or four rows, a wooden pulpit up in the front with a book on it, a television set up in the front, and a display in the back with a list of L. Ron Hubbard's books and various pamphlets.

The chapel was a very simple setup, no frills, the most visually stimulating thing in it was the large window in the front looking out onto the road which was filled with trees in bloom and people walking their dogs.

Overall, this chapel was simple and basically built for function and not for beauty.

The People:

There weren't many people in the congregation. Only about six regulars and then me, Austin, and a couple other visitors. The person running the service was a woman who was very nice and had a pretty interesting background. More on that in "The Message" section. The people, in general, just seemed like nice people and that they sincerely believed in this.

The Service:

The service was very short, over in less than 15 minutes. It started with them reading the Creed of the Church of Scientology, which I would display here, but I know their church copyrights all their materials and often does litigate often, so I'll just say, in general terms what the creed says:

  • All men are equal.
  • All men have inalienable rights to life, religious freedom, sanity, defense, choice, speech, and creativity.
  • Only God can take away these rights.
  • Mankind's nature is good.
  • Man tries to survive by himself and with his brothers.
  • Nobody has the right to harm or destroy others.
  • The spirit and body can be saved.
After they read the creed, the woman leading the service began reading a sermon from L. Ron Hubbard out of the book in the front. The sermon basically talked about how he had discovered the way to freedom, and it would be arrogant for him to say that it's the totality of truth, but it is a new and modern, workable truth. It then ended with them pitching a book written by L. Ron Hubbard that you could purchase to learn more about what he had said.

They then read a prayer for total freedom, which basically was a plea to God to end human suffering.

The service was then over, and the floor was opened up for a Q&A. Here is where we will transition to the message portion.

The Message:

The service didn't give much of a message, but the Q&A certainly did. Someone asked about the Church's image in the media. The lady said, basically, that the media distorts everything and that the Church isn't at all what the media paints it to be, and all it wants to do is destroy anything good and prosperous.

During that time, the lady mentioned that Scientology was an open religion, and that anyone from any faith could join, and this included atheists and agnostics. I then pointed out that the Creed and the prayer they had read from mention God explicitly, and how that can be the case. She said that it was an individual's own reality whether they accepted God or not. She said that she knew a few, but not many, Scientologists who came into the faith as atheists, but as you spend more time in the faith, you'll begin to see that there is a reality beyond us most call God. In other words, come in with what you want, but eventually, you'll assimilate to our beliefs.

She stated also that she had had problems with schizophrenia and other mental conditions and that Scientology had helped her overcome that. She then looked at me and asked, "Do I look crazy to you?" Which, I didn't think was a good question to ask a stranger. I told her that I've known people who are battling mental illness who look fine for long periods of time, but they're not. She didn't like that response and said that she was fine, no more hallucinations, no anxiety, nor depression.

Someone asked a question I can't remember, and the lady responded by talking about the Tone Scale as though it were something we were all familiar with. I asked what the tone scale was. She pulled out a book, and said basically that it was a scale that registers human emotions. She held it up and explained that people's emotions and behaviors fall somewhere on this scale within certain bands. I asked if I could see it, she quickly folded it up and put it back in the book and said, I'll see if we have any in the bookstore for you. A few minutes later, a lady returned with a book and a pamphlet with the tone chart in it. She told me I could buy the book for $25 or I could buy the pamphlet for $5. I was sort of shocked that they were pimping out the pamphlet to me for a price.

That was the thing I noticed most, everything costs money except the promotional materials they sent us away with. I grabbed a bunch of their pamphlets as I left, and all of them are brief blurbs about various books or courses and then have registration forms. The books range anywhere from 25 to 40 dollars for hardbacks. That's not terrible for book prices. But there are dozens of books all at that price and you're encouraged to buy as many of them as possible. And then there are the courses. If you want to know anything outside the basics of their religion, you must take these courses. There are dozens of courses and the price tags I see on some of them. I have about 15 pamphlets and the cost of the courses I took pamphlets on run from $110 to $875 per course.

Back to the Tone Scale, she did let me see the pamphlet and look it over, but I didn't purchase it. Essentially, it's this chart that classifies humans along a scale from 0.1 to 4.0. These are 9 categories of people and explains what each of these types of people acts like, how they react to certain situations, what their sexual behavior is like, and what they contribute to society. She stated that people can be different things on the tone scale at different times. I found the Tone Scale to be extremely limited. It's possible to feel multiple emotions at the same time, but the Tone Scale isn't set up that way. I asked and she said it's based on the long term feelings of a person. Again, I said that you can feel may of these things at the same time, and the more I looked at the scale, the more I realized that it divided the complexity of human emotion into 9 categories and tried to shove people into different boxes based on this.

After a few more questions, we got a demonstration of the e-meter, Scientology's tool used in auditing. Essentially, it's a machine hooked up to a couple of tin cans that are held in the hand. The machine has some dials and a needle that moves up and down. After a thorough demonstration of the e-meter, I determined it's not an effective tool at all. There was no consistency with how the needle moved, I tested it in a couple ways, and nothing happened. When my friend was using the machine, his needle moved entirely differently from mine, and they said, that's what we want to see. And with mine, they said the same thing. There doesn't seem any rhyme or reason to the e-meter, it seems like it's more a tool for cold reading.

Overall Experience:

This seemed to be nothing more than a money making scheme masquerading as a religion. The intro materials are universal beliefs that they promote, and they really promote it as a self journey. It's all about you. You can believe what you want. You can get in touch with yourself. They also promise the Moon: we can get you off of drugs, you can be a better communicator, we can raise your IQ, we can give you a better marriage, we can cure your mental illnesses, etc. But it all comes at a huge price tag.

If they truly believed they had the truth and were genuinely interested in saving the world with their techniques, why wouldn't they offer it to people for free or only the cost of materials? Other churches will give you materials for free, they will tell you all you need to know free of charge, they may have a study group with a marginal fee, usually they'll waive it if you can't pay it, but generally, churches never charge money to teach their parishioners. But everything in this church costs money.

A friendly warning for anyone who reads this who is seeking a spiritual home, avoid any group that makes promises that seem too good to be true, avoid easy answers to complicated question. If a group has you sign papers of non-disclosure, asks you to invest huge amounts of money, or asks for money up front, run! All of these are red flags for a group seeking to exploit you.

Additional Comments:

I will be making a video soon about the past few weeks. Until next time, peace be with you.

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